CD Review of One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This by New York Dolls

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One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This
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If you, at any point prior to about two years ago, claimed that you always suspected there’d be another New York Dolls album, you’re a damned dirty liar.

I’m not trying to call anybody out. I’m just saying, is all.

But, c’mon, let’s get real. The Dolls hadn’t released a proper studio album since 1974’s Too Much Too Soon – possibly the best-ever title for a sophomore effort, by the way – and lead singer David Johansen had lost all traces of alt-rock credibility by creating his lounge lizard alter ego, Buster Poindexter…and don’t get me started his ungodly signature song, the title of which I can’t even bear to cite, lest the hook get stuck in my head and not leave for several excruciating hours. Plus, guitarist Johnny Thunders shocked precisely no one by OD’ing on heroin in ’91, drummer Jerry Nolan died of a stroke later the same year, and the surviving members of the band hadn’t really gone out of their way to embrace their musical heritage.

Except, suddenly, in 2004, they did…thanks to one Stephen Patrick Morrissey. At Morrissey’s urging, the surviving three members of the Dolls’ seminal lineup – Johansen, guitarist Syl Sylvain, and bassist Arthur “Killer” Kane – reunited and performed at the Meltdown Festival in the UK. The performance was fantastic, the reception rapturous, and, frankly, the only letdown about the whole affair was that, only a few weeks later, Kane died from complications of leukemia, a condition he didn’t even know he had until he checked into the hospital because he was feeling poorly.

So now we’re down to only two surviving members, thereby making it seem even more unlikely that there’d be a new Dolls album…and, yet, here we are in 2006, and Johansen and Sylvain , so thoroughly jazzed by the Meltdown performance and the subsequent few additional festival shows they’d done, decided, “What the hell, let’s do another album.” They got together the guys who’d been filling out the lineup for the aforementioned concerts – Sami Yaffa (Hanoi Rocks), Steve Conte (The Contes), Brian Koonin (Johansen’s solo work), and Brian Delaney (Dead Left) – and headed into the studio.

And, thus, we have One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This…and, indeed, it’s an album well worth remembering. I mean, it’s shockingly good.

The album begins with “We’re All in Love,” which builds piece by piece: first comes the bass, then the guitar and drums kick in, followed by a bluesy harmonica riff as the drums pound harder and harder…and, suddenly, we’re bombarded with the title being sung in harmony. After it’s repeated a few times, Johansen’s trademark New York sneer takes the lead, and we’re off and running at full tilt…although, to be fair, the second track, “Runnin’ Around,” causes a slight loss of momentum due to its musical similarity to “Achy Breaky Heart.” (Honest to God, when it first opens, you’ll do a double-take.) Fortunately, by the time you hit the album’s first single, “Dance like a Monkey,” you’ll have forgotten all about any hesitation you might’ve had and begun to embrace this for the kick-ass comeback album it is.

The band don’t sound nearly as much like the half-talented, rough-and-tumble (but nonetheless thoroughly entertaining) garage band they used to be, but, hey, if you’re around long enough, you’re bound to pick up some chops, right? In particular, the use of pounding piano on the bouncy “Gotta Get Away from Tommy” is inspired. If your memory of the Dolls is strictly for songs like “Trash” and “Subway Train,” you might be surprised to hear more mellow fare like “Plenty of Music” and “Maimed Happiness,” but they’re also not as young as they used to be, and even New York Dolls mellow a little bit over time. Fortunately, the old sound resurfaces plenty, with nuggets like “Fishnets and Cigarettes” and “Punishing World”; “Rainbow Store” also could’ve come from the debut album…well, if it were a little grungier, that is.

The Dolls also throw a few guests into the mix; the best contribution comes via Michael Stipe’s backing vocals on “Dancing on the Lip of a Volcano,” but you gotta love the concept of Iggy Pop turning up, as he does on the bluesy “Gimme Luv & Turn on the Light”; there’s some studio footage that’d be worth seeing.

Hell, guys, we thought we were just gonna be stuck with getting the umpteenth poorly-recorded live performance from the mid-‘70s; it never occurred to us we’d get a new album, let alone one that’s this solid. It should please you Dolls to remember this; you’ve done the seemingly-impossible, and you’re to be applauded for it.

~Will Harris